I was terrifiedBy Joanna Rowland-Stuart
PHOTOGRAPH by Sharon Kilgannon, Alonglines.com
I went and spoke to a Jewish friend, Miriam, she’s very supportive.
She had heard that I had been cross dressing, coming out, but it was almost furtive. I wasn’t coming out in the day, and she said, “Jo, you’re coming with me to Tesco” and she took me shopping at Tesco, in broad daylight. I was with her and her children. Nobody really made anything of it but I was terrified. So I started going out as Jo, going over to my friends, playing Bridge with them, all local. We lived on a council estate.
Then one day a gang of people went round to my friend’s house and beat on the door, while we were playing Bridge. They were saying, “Bring out the paedophile.” They were a mob, and they had baseball bats and whatever. My friend said, “ What?” and they explained that I was actually transgendered and that had nothing to do with paedophilia, not anything like that. And the penny dropped and most of them were going “Oh, we made a mistake.” They’d been incited to do this by one particular family on the estate who were intolerant of homosexuals, intolerant of Jews and intolerant of black people, so I was just the next target. This wasn’t in Brighton, this was in Lancing, and I fled from Lancing to here.
I had discussed with my colleagues I was coming to work from January 2000 as Jo. The turn of the millennium, a new me. It was good, and I started seeing my colleagues as Jo, in social situations. We were out on a ten-pin bowling night and I think they were expecting me to walk in with a miniskirt, high heels and traditional ‘tranny’ image. But no, I was wearing jeans and sneakers. They were going “We thought you’d be dolled up” and I said, “To play ten pin bowling?”. The girls were just laughing at that, so, I thought, “Success”, and as I went out, one of my colleagues’ sons – not my colleague himself but his adult son – turned round to me and said, “You’re a fucking pervert. You’re fucking sick.” He said that straight into my face and then just walked off. I was just shocked and it sort of took me from a high, straight down to a low, almost immediately. You just have to put it to one side, you can’t let it drag you down.
Things just steadily proceeded at work, I was eventually accepted, but they told me I had to use the disabled toilet in the basement because one colleague in the entire company complained about me using the ladies. They said, “When you’ve had the operation, then you can use the women’s toilet.” I didn’t realise how discriminatory it was, but I thought, “Do I rock the boat? No. I’m accepted, I don’t want to make big waves”.
This is Joanna's testimony in Chapter Six (Safety, abuse, fear, violence, mis-gendering, barriers) of the ground-breaking Brighton Trans*formed book.
To read more intimate, heart-breaking and heart-warming stories from transgender people, click here.
This page was amended on 19/12/2014